Wicking beds are great for growing strong, healthy plants, allowing for efficient use of water and nutrients. They comprise a water reservoir at the bottom of a container, with soil and plants on top, which are irrigated through capillary action.
UrbanVeg.com.au have installed many wicking beds in schools in and and around Sydney, and have learned many lessons along the way.
This article details the main reasons wicking beds make perfect sense for a learning environment.
1. No Watering in School Holidays
One of the most common problems growing vegetables in a school environment is that by the time the vegetables reach maturity and start to produce, term can often have ended, with nobody to water the vegetables daily.
Wicking beds can be filled with water just before the end of term, and will continue to provide the plants with what they need over the breaks.
For longer school breaks or during heatwaves, having a groundskeeper simply plug in a hose for 10 minutes once every few weeks is enough to keep the plants supplied.
2. Less Weeding for the Students
Because a wicking bed waters from below, they can be filled with potting mix to a point where the top of the soil remains dry (except after rain). This means weed seeds have very little opportunity to grow. Of course your own seeds will need a little watering for the first few days until they germinate, but that's a small price to pay to eliminate weeding.
3. Higher Yields - Happier Kids
The higher levels of nutrition retained in a wicking bed together with the constant supply of water means much higher yields. This will help inspire students to grow their own vegetables at home, and introduce them to the satisfaction that a level of self sufficiency can bring.
Wicking beds provide consistently better results for less maintenance; kids will love the high yields they get from the seeds they have nurtured.
4. A Comfortable Work Height
The wicking beds we install in schools are typically 65cm high - a perfect height bed for kids to access without bending, but also keep them discouraged from walking on them.
Being closer to eye level with the plants also helps spot pests and other issues that may take hold, and provides a generally more pleasant working environment.
And constructing in a sustainable timber enables them to stand up to kicking and corrosion much better than cheap steel beds.
5. An Education in Sustainable Living
Our wicking beds can be supplied with worm composters. This means when picking a carrot for example, the leaves can be detached at the point of picking, and placed in the worm composter. The worms move in and out of the composter, aerating the bed and feeding on the discarded offcuts. Nutrition enters the water reservoir and feeds the whole bed.
Wicking beds are a versatile and efficient method of growing plants in schools. The low maintenance levels make them perfect for learning without the hassle.